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Wednesday 26 October 2016
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Seven-day week GP appointments still on the cards, says Hunt

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said seven day a week GP appointments are still on the cards

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) said seven day a week GP appointments are still on the cards.

He told the Commons health select committee that he would  deliver the Conservative manifesto pledge to offer seven day week routine appointments.

He said offering 8am to 8pm appointments would help working people get to see healthcare professionals at their surgery.

He gave evidence as part of the health select committee enquiry into the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on health and social care.

The NHS unveiled plans to trim £30 billion from its budget as part of the Five Year Forward plan it unveiled in October 2014.

Committee members yesterday questioned if the seven-day scheme should go-ahead as there has been a low uptake of appointments beyond Saturday mornings in pilots.

Hunt said he was planning to extend the hours for available routine appointments. He said: “We do want people to be able to make routine appointments at the weekend.”

He accepted that patients could find the current out-of-hours GP service alongside new GP hubs “confusing” and stressed the importance of signposting.

NHS 111 could help tell people about services, he explained.

Hunt also told the committee “we are starting to turn the tide on the exploding agency bill.”

He said the boom in costs were caused in a bid to plug staffing gaps after the Mid Staffordshire scandal.

Controls brought in last October had saved £290 million in agency costs, he said.

He hoped staff would be encouraged to return to the NHS pay roll from agencies.

NHS England boss Simon Stevens told the committee that the bill for agency staff had soared from £2.5 billion to £3.7 billion.

In a briefing prepared for the select committee NHS England said the deficit for 2015/16 was £1 billion higher than expected, but was partly because of a higher use of agency staff.

It anticipates trimming at least £1.2 billion from the amount spent on agencies.

It also said it had identified £1 billion efficiencies from clinical commission groups (CCGs) running costs and non-NHS provider contracts.

Further “operational efficiency” from CCGs is also anticipated as part of a package of £14 billion savings by 2020-21, it said.